Las Vegas Sun

March 2, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

Economic growth will not continue

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Thomas Friedman’s column in Thursday’s Sun, “The president’s prescription,” is not only wrong but also extremely dangerous.

He, as almost every economist and almost every politician, advocates growth as the solution to the problems facing humanity. All of them don’t seem to understand the simple fact that the Earth is finite, the resources it can provide humanity are finite, and, therefore, growth will cease. No action taken by humanity will permit continuous economic or population growth.

Our species must plan not only for the cessation of growth but also a continuous reduction in economic activity worldwide. If the economy of the United States was to grow at the rate of 2.5 percent per year, it would double every 28 years — 28 years from now twice as large, 56 years from now four times as large, 84 years from now eight times as large and 280 years from now 1,024 times as large.

That type of growth cannot and will not happen. Anyone who believes in economic growth is just plain wrong and causing the destruction of all of humanity.

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  1. I have one two words for the fatalist letter writer: Space exploration.


  2. Percentage growth in GDP can be a flawed method of measurement due to what is popularly called "The Law of Large Numbers". For example, in today's $15 Trillion economy we are experiencing about 2% growth or $300 Billion per year. Yet, in 2001 when we had a $10 Trillion economy, $ 300 Billion in growth yielded a 3% growth in GDP. Same increase in value of growth, but lower percentage growth.

    When faced with finite resources, the trick is how much value you are able to add to those resources.

  3. I tend to put the economic and population malthusians in with the end-of-the-worlders....doom will come upon us. Add a couple of tambourines and a good preacher and you've got an economically sustainable cult.

    Growth only needs to continue at [industrial era] historic rates if population continues to grow at those rates. remember too that increased efficiency and productivity are factors as well as new technologies. Carmine has a good point regarding space exploration and utilization.

    I believe, however, that our greatest challenge lies in educating people to understand science and technology and use them as tools for progress. Unfortunately we have, at the current time, leadership which denies scientific methods and research and relies on religious facts. To me, that is a recipe for disaster. Think it can't happen here? Consider that while we western Christians were laboring under the influence of the Church in the 1200, 1300 and 1400's, the Arab world was the center of science and technology. That's now reversed, but.....?

  4. Yeah, and as predicted by other "Chicken Little's" 20 years ago, we have run out of food, water and oil. "Chicken Little" sees the "sky falling" and he hides under his covers. Luddites! You gotta love 'em.

  5. Carmine,

    "I have two words for the fatalist letter writer.Space exploration".

    Space exploration is the equivalvent to Christopher Columbus exploring and finding the new world. Both scary projects about the unknown,but both very well needed in each time frame.Very good response from you.

  6. Resources are finite. Growth will likely continue in pockets and sporadically but unless we remove some of the dragging factors, our economy will never be the same as it was. Economic drags: the foster kids (heard of another yesterday) aging out of the system but about to give birth, illegal (and legal) immigrants who come here to live off the "land" but not provide serious productive work, whining dependents who refuse to perform productive work, long-term social welfare programs, tax code refundable credits for having more kids, reality shows for having more kids, Octomoms, Doctors (of Octomoms and others), non-profits that don't select beneficiaries based on enabling recovery and productivity. Just giving it (anything of value) away without "strings attached" to encourage a LIMIT ON GIVE AWAYS.

  7. If you look at economic growth going back to ancient Greece and Rome there have been periods of strong growth and periods of almost no growth. People have adjusted to both. Global growth will definitely slow. There are signs that is occurring now. We are growing at about 3% worldwide which is the slowest in 40 years.

    Where the letter writer is mistaken is that a slowing of economic growth doesn't mean the end of the world. It just means people have to adjust to a different type of economic environment.

  8. Countries like Holland, Spain, Italy, Greece peaked as economic superpowers hundreds of years ago. Those country still exist even though economic growth is nowhere near what it is in places like the United States China and Latin America. People just make adjustments over time.
    Economic growth will be below trend in the United States for many years. Technology is replacing millions of workers. Our society is aging and the cost of caring for elders will reduce economic output and domestic consumption. This doesn't mean that the United States is going to end and were all going to die. It just means we have to adjust our lifestyle.

    Govt employment relative to total employment hasn't gone up in 50 years. It's all about medical inflation. As medical rises from 6% of GDP 20 years ago to 40% of the economy decades from now you will see real hardship.
    The entire Soviet Union collapsed when defense hit about 40% of the economy. That is what our medical bills will soon be.

  10. All things considered, another bout with the plague might not be a bad thing.

  11. They've been giving the growth is ending speech for thousands of years. In the last year Japanese scientists have figured out a way to make high quality edible protein out of human feces.

    British scientists have figured out a way to create carbon-based fuel out of oxygen.

    Technology could conceivably make work obsolete. We can sit on the beach and let the robots make what we need. To a certain extent they're doing that now with robotics.

    Up until a few decades ago people worked until they dropped dead. Today we have the blogging class. Probably the laziest bunch of folks in the history of mankind. Myself included!

    All in all it's a pretty good time in history to be alive.

  12. We remain in economic depression due to the lack of innovation and competence of powerful self dealers. These players have rigged the game-cash accrues to them regardless of performance. An example of their irresponsibility is that after they took bailouts they now suggest that the age of social security be raised or that the benefits be cut. They don't even bother to offer an excuse for the high unemployment rate. These racketeers include the financial,energy, defense, healthcare, telecommunications,mining, auto and transportation corporations.(I ought to throw in gambling too.) Since many are multinational in nature; governments should discount the deficit scolds who are really propagandists for these no accounts. The global corporatists are really advocating poverty.

  13. I give Friedman's column credit for being full of good ideas and insights, not "wrong and dangerous." The gist of the column is that congressional gridlock is stymieing growth and that the solution lies in "mobilizing the center" of both parties. Because the country needs "a detailed plan for tax reform, spending cuts and investments," he recommends that Congress start negotiations on the Simpson-Bowles plan.

    One of Friedman's points is that business and investors would respond to a rational, balanced congressional plan by finally freeing their money sitting on the sidelines, which would be a stimulus to the economy.

  14. it's funny how rapidly that middle ground fades into conservatism.

  15. boftx 12:05: Perhaps we're having another bout of plague. Medical research tells us that IF you had a direct ancestor who had but survived the plague, you likely won't get AIDS/HIV even if repeatedly exposed. Unfortunately the bugs seem to have morphed (or is it that human antibodies etal have evolved?) so that it takes a lot longer to display symptoms. But it seems your point could be made with another quickly-fatal bug to weed out any and every "lower" dna carrier.

  16. gerry,

    "Technology could conceivably make work obsolete. We can sit on the beach and let the robots make what we need. To a certain extent they're doing that now with robotics."

    I have heard that one for many decades. It doesn't happen because of the needs of the business community.

    Think of the political ramifications when everyone is in the new "entitlement" category, living off the efforts of machines. There will be people who can't accept people getting paid for doing nothing but enjoying life.

    Who is going to want to pay a person for sitting on the beach? That would be non-productive and certainly not acceptable to certain groups of people.

    It is more likely that business will use the robots and leave the humans out of the equation and destitute.

    "All things considered, another bout with the plague might not be a bad thing."

    Or, we can just have a huge nuclear war and let the bomb fall on us to reduce the population.

    Or, we can legalize voluntary euthanasia, or state mandated euthanasia to cull the population. Why wait for nature to do what we intend?